Q. I am a single woman, by choice. So much financial advice is written for couples. How can I invest for my retirement when I have to cover all my living expenses by myself?

Women are already at a disadvantage when it comes to saving for retirement. They often face lifestyle and economic issues that require special consideration. Women tend to earn less money than men and take more time away from the workforce to care for family members giving up their income stream and losing out on raises and promotions. They are less likely to have access to retirement benefits at work, and live longer than men.

On top of that, women who are single face other retirement planning challenges, whether they’ve always been single, or are now divorced or widowed.

Single women can’t count on a spouse’s income to help shore up their retirement savings or take advantage of tax splitting and credits. Plus, they are shouldering all the costs of pre-retirement living themselves.

Related: Whatever you do, don’t retire alone (and other helpful advice)

They’re entirely on their own to make sure they are financially secure. It’s no wonder they’re worried.

This doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to retire. But it does mean you need extra planning for your financial future.

You need to take a realistic look at your financial resources. How long will you need to work? Should you change your job to generate more income? You’ll also need to determine whether you’ll need to pare down your discretionary spending or explore alternate living arrangements, either now or during your retirement years.

Retirement Planning for Single Women

Investing in your future

Financial security is a high priority for women investors so they tend to take a more conservative approach. Being conservative has advantages and disadvantages. Being too conservative and shying away from the stock market altogether can leave you financially vulnerable.

If your money is in savings accounts, money market accounts or GICs because you’re afraid of stock market volatility, you’ll not have enough growth and inflation will quickly eat into that cash. It’s actually riskier in the long run. You’ll have less retirement assets and a higher risk of outliving your money.

But being risk-adverse can also be an advantage as women tend to understand that they can’t afford to sustain large losses. They can focus more on their progress toward financial goals rather than market swings and hot investment tips like many of their male counterparts.

A US study by the Family Wealth Advisors Council showed women “don’t trust the financial services industry.” Many survey respondents reported experiencing disrespect and condescension as well as receiving poor advice.

The industry to some degree makes financial information overly complicated. With some basic education on how investing works and relating the process to their personal goals, women can increase their confidence and make excellent investment decisions. Learn as much as you can to make the best use of your financial and social resources.

You may find yourself becoming interested in researching individual stocks or other investments. You can simplify the investment decisions with regular contributions to such options as the Tangerine Balanced Portfolio or broad market ETFs.

On the other hand, if you want a totally hands off approach, robo-advisors such as ModernAdvisor or Wealthsimple are an ideal way to automate your decisions, diversify your portfolio and reduce time spent worrying about your investments.

Surround yourself with support

Finally, consider forming a money club. This differs from an investment club in that members discuss all financial concerns.

The purpose of a money club is to meet with a group of like-minded friends and/or family members that you trust to discuss your progress toward your financial goals, keep you motivated, provide support and accountability, share tips, and help one another out when things get off track.

Admitting your own money mistakes, and learning about those of your friends can actually make you feel less anxious about your own situation and creates an immediate bond. And, it’s rewarding to celebrate the progress your fellow money group members have made.


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